College Football Overtime (cont.)
Mack Brown meant no disrespect, but a couple of times during his Saturday postgame press conference when answering questions about his defense suffocating Nebraska freshman sensation Taylor Martinez, Brown subtly suggested that perhaps we, the media, had been a little presumptuous in anointing "T-Magic" as the second coming before he'd faced his first elite defense. It was fun while it lasted, but the Martinez-Denard Robinson hype machine screeched to a halt Saturday, around the same time that Auburn's Cam Newton made it abundantly clear whom the most lethal dual-threat quarterback is in the country right now.
Unlike Robinson and Martinez, who rely almost entirely on their breakaway speed -- which is negated when facing similarly fast defenses -- Newton is a 6-foot-6, 250-pound battering ram who spent much of Saturday's Arkansas game either bowling over or dragging helpless defenders around his ankles. A week after running for 198 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries against Kentucky, the junior carried 25 times for 188 yards and three scores against the 12th-ranked Razorbacks. He also completed 10 of 14 passes for 140 yards and a score to remain second nationally in pass efficiency (180.5).
Having said that, Newton faces his own moment of reckoning this week when the fifth-ranked Tigers host sixth-ranked LSU in a clash of 7-0 teams. Newton has faced a more notable gauntlet to date than Robinson or Martinez, but he hasn't seen anything like LSU, which boasts the No. 3 defense in the country. It's entirely possible Drake Nevis and Co. will humble Newton the way Texas did Martinez. He'll almost certainly have to throw more than 14 times to win.
Or, Newton could put up another 100-yard rushing day, put Auburn in the thick of the national title hunt and assert himself as the undisputed Heisman leader, in which case I'm guessing we'll see more and more stories about his "troubled past," with more and more mentions of an inaccuracy I've seen numerous times.
So please, fellow writers and fans, take a moment to get your facts straight. Cameron Newton did not steal a laptop. Really. He made an error in judgment, which he's discussed candidly, but he is not a thief, nor was he dismissed from Florida. He left on his own accord, in large part because Tim Tebow decided to return for his senior season.
As it turns out, Newton may follow in Tebow's footsteps after all -- in New York.
The party in Madison lasted well into the wee hours Sunday following Wisconsin's biggest win since its late '90s Rose Bowl trips. Fifth-year coach Bret Bielema, who'd previously gone 1-8 against ranked opponents and had yet to fully win over the locals, should have no such problem now after his team outplayed No. 1 Ohio State in every aspect of a 31-18 upset Saturday night.
"It's justification for me that we are doing the right things," said Bielema. "What we do 365 days a year, you saw today. And I know it can be successful."
The obvious ramification is that Wisconsin shattered the Buckeyes' national-title hopes. Following its worst defensive performance in nearly three years and an erratic performance by Terrelle Pryror, Jim Tressel's team plummeted to 11th in the AP poll. But the result also raises an intriguing question: Who's going to win the Big Ten?
No. 8 Michigan State -- which could still creep into the BCS title conversation -- sits alone at the top (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten), but No. 12 Iowa (5-1, 2-0) may ultimately have the biggest say in this thing. The Hawkeyes host the 10th-ranked Badgers (6-1, 2-1) next week, the Spartans a week later and the Buckeyes (6-1, 2-1) on Nov. 20. It seems like a tall task for Iowa to win all three, but it could still get to the Rose Bowl with one loss if it beats the right teams. Or Sparty could run away with it. Or the Buckeyes or Badgers could get back in it.
This much we know: There's a significant drop-off between those four teams and the rest of the conference. Is it crazy to think the league could end in a four-way tie for first with four 7-1 teams? Who wins that tiebreaker? And what a fitting ending it would be in the last year before the league gets a title game.
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games:
Title game: Boise State vs. Alabama
Rose: Iowa vs. Oregon
Fiesta: Oklahoma vs. Utah
Orange: Florida State vs. West Virginia
Sugar: Auburn vs. Michigan State
I'm throwing darts this week. With my SI.com midseason Crystal Ball predictions due later this week, I couldn't just slap up the status quo, because I firmly believe nearly every current top 10 team is going to suffer a loss between now and December, with the possible exception of Alabama, which would rise to the top of the one-loss pack. Whether voters keep Boise State above the fray will likely remain unknown right up until Dec. 5.
Equally arbitrary: Picking a Big Ten Rose Bowl representative (I went with Iowa under the assumption that the Hawkeyes will hand Michigan State its sole defeat) and dealing with TCU and Utah, which meet on Nov. 6 in Salt Lake. Right now I favor the Utes, ever so slightly. I reserve the right to change my mind before then.
#DearAndy: Big Ten football, Baylor Bears, and bacon
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